By Brent Owen for The Voice-Tribune
This past April, after a final run in “Giselle,” ballerina Helen Daigle, a 20-year veteran with the Louisville Ballet, hung up her pointe shoes and said goodbye to professional dancing for good. Two months later, the company announced they would continue their working relationship with Daigle, hiring her on as the company’s newest ballet mistress.
Daigle hopes to bring the love and enthusiasm she felt as a little girl to her position as ballet mistress. If you aren’t familiar, the role would best be compared to that of a coach in other sports, helping to guide and condition the dancers to perform at their physical peak. According to the Royal Opera House’s definition: “It’s the ballet mistress’s job to make sure the corps de ballet is schooled to perfection.” And after a lifetime of experience, it’s a position Daigle doesn’t take lightly.
“I want to create a positive environment that is both challenging and nurturing,” Daigle said of what she hopes to bring to her new role in the company. “In a way that will build them up as artists, but also as people, and as humans. I don’t want to be so myopic about the level of perfection that we aspire toward that it tears them down. I want to build dancers up, I’m not here to break them.”
Daigle, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has danced all her life but didn’t start formal training until she was 7. “My mom will tell you I started dancing as soon as soon as I learned to walk,” said Daigle. “I never really walked anywhere, I danced everywhere I went – skipping, twirling and leaping.”